Daniel begins with God decreeing Israel’s demise at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar. Israel’s sin had become so great that God used the nation of Babylon and its King, Nebuchadnezzar, to exile and displace the majority of Israel’s population to Babylon. Daniel, the son of an Israeli politician, and three of his friends are handpicked to enter into the king’s court.
Once there, Nebuchadnezzar appointed experts to indoctrinate them in the “language and literature of the Chaldeans.” Daniel is probably a teenager. He’s in a new place, a new culture, a massive city and separated from his parents. Nebuchadnezzar scrubs Daniel of all ties to his Hebrew past changes his name and asks, under the threat of death, for Daniel to abandon the laws about food in the Torah. If Daniel complies he is promised a position of power in the most powerful nation on earth. Daniel is being tested. Will he be faithful to the king, or the king who controls the kings?
Daniel refuses to eat the king’s meat and wine. Daniel chooses obedience and faithfulness to God, over allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. In response to Daniel’s faith, God makes Daniel and his friends gain weight on a diet of vegetables and water, and then God gives them a higher capacity to understand the “language and literature of the Chaldeans” than any of their peers. Nebuchadnezzar is not in charge, God is. He humbled Israel by sending them into exile at the hands of Babylon, and now he is raising up a faithful Israelite who bow before God’s word in Babylon.
Where is Jesus?
This pattern of God both humbling the proud and exalting the humble dominates not only Daniel but all of Scripture (Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 3:34; Proverbs 29:23; Ezekiel 21:26; Matthew 23:12; Luke 1:52; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). But God not being content with humbling the proud humbles himself. Jesus humbled himself in a humiliating death on the cross. God died at the hands of people he rightfully ruled and for pride and injustice that were not his responsibility. Like Daniel Jesus obeyed God not merely under the threat of death, but even when it meant his death. And like Daniel rose in power, Jesus rose in power too. Now every knee bows to King Jesus (Phil 2:8-12).
This is good news because there is no army, no king, no injustice, no oppression and no threat of death that is more powerful than God’s commitment to exalt the humble. If we humble ourselves before the one who controls the kings even when it feels like death, God will “make us alive together with Christ... and raise us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places..” (Eph 2:4-6 ESV).
See for yourself.
“May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see the God who controls the kings, and Jesus as the better Daniel who humbled himself before God and was exalted.